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A pilgrims’ church with visitors from all over the world, St Melangell’s church at Pennant Melangell has been a focus of pilgrimage for over a thousand years.
Sited at the head of the Tanat valley, St Melangell’s is beautifully positioned where, according to local legend, a nunnery was founded in the late 8th Century.
Lost deep in in the Berwyn Mountains the church is in the peaceful and idyllic Pennant Valley.
The main part of the church is medieval, with a 19thC tower and an 18thC porch. You will also find a 12thC font and a delightful 15thC rood screen with carvings depicting the legend of St Melangell.
The church also houses the restored shrine to St Melangell which is believed to be the earliest surviving Romanesque shrine in Northern Europe.
The legend of St Melangell tells the tale of the saint who was said to have been a hermit who lived in the valley at the time of the 7th century. Legend describes how she was given the Pennant Valley as a place of sanctuary by Prince Brochwel Ysgithrog who was impressed by her bravery and sanctity. The Prince, who was hunting in the valley, was in pursuit of a hare who took refuge under Melangell’s skirts. While the Prince’s hounds were fearful and fled, she bravely protected the hare – and has since become the patron saint of hares.
Inside the church you will find a 15thC oak screen with carvings telling the story of Melangell and Prince Brochwel. Other treasures include a series of stone carvings of the hare by the sculptor Meical Watts, forming a frieze of carvings detailing the earliest representation of the legend of St Melangell and Prince Brochwel.
The beautiful 12thC shrine of Saint Melangell was dismantled following the Reformation, when its beautifully carved stones were built into the walls of the lych-gate and church itself. They have now been reassembled and the shrine has been erected once more for all to see its stunning blend of Romanesque and Celtic motifs.
Excavations have found the site to have ancient links with nearby Bronze Age burials and an earlier graveyard.
St Melangell’s church can be found close to the nearby village of Llangynog, on the B4391. There are toilets and drinks available at the nearby Melangell Centre, with parking, shop and exhibition to visit at the church.
You’ll also see a large bone on display at the church which you will find mounted on the wall of the nave of the church. The bone is known as both Asen y Gawres (Giant’s rib) and Asen Melangell (Melangell’s rib). This perhaps links to the local myths and legends of giants living in the Berwyn Mountains.
The legend of Melangell has far reaching powers. A rock ledge, several hundred metres to the south of Melangell’s church, is also known locally as Gwely Melangell (Melangell’s Bed).